Red Dwarf returns to UK TV screens tonight for its eleventh season, and the first full season in four years.
Red Dwarf is the world's longest-running science fiction sitcom, and the longest-running sitcom on British television. Created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, it aired its first six seasons between 1988 and 1993, before Rob Grant chose to leave to work on other projects and novels. Naylor continued with two additional seasons in 1997 and 1999, although these were patchier and less popular. After a decade spent trying to get a film version launched, the show returned to TV for a mini-series (now retconned as the ninth season) in 2009, which was very poorly received, and a full, tenth season in 2012 which was much more warmly received.
The premise of the series is that Dave Lister, a low-ranking technician on the five-mile-long mining vessel Red Dwarf, is put into stasis as a punishment for smuggling a cat on board. Whilst he's in stasis a lethal radiation leak wipes out the crew and forces the ship's AI, Holly, to take the vessel in to deep space until the radiation danger has passed and Lister can be woken up. Unfortunately, this takes three million years. Upon waking up, Lister discovers the last survivor of a humanoid species that evolved from his cat and a holographic recreation of his officious and pedantic senior officer, Arnold Judas Rimmer. Later on they recover an android from a wrecked starship, the neurotic and borderline insane Kryten. Together, they attempt to survive with no female company and find a way back to Earth.
Early word on the eleventh season - the first episode was aired on streaming services last week as a preview - is that it's also pretty good, continuing an emphasis on the characters and dialogue rather than explosions and effects (a criticism levelled at Seasons 7 and 8). Encouragingly, Season 12 has already been filmed and will air next year.
Red Dwarf's eleventh season starts airing tonight at 9pm on British cable channel Dave.